23 July 2007
"I think that we can – and I say this with all due respect for Canada, which may be the only the only place where I'll get a major argument – pick off hockey here, and then we'll move on to the next major-league sport," Lalas said. "We can start picking them off one by one.".
Now Greg Wyshanski does a good job of picking up why he's pretty much wrong over at the NHL Fanhouse, but I have a better question to ask... Why does it matter?
Seriously why are people always trying to get sports to compete against one another. I realize that there's a limited number of entertainment dollars and time to go around, but in all reality the only two leagues that should feel any sort of competition should be NBA and NHL, since they are the only one's who play basically the same schedule, meaning they are fighting for the entertainment dollars at the same time. But in all reality these two are sort of friendly rivals. The biggest reason the Avalanche surpassed the Nuggets in popularity wasn't because of some weird Hockey-Basketball rivalry, but more because for 10 years while the Nuggets sucked (REALLY REALLY SUCKED), the Avalanche were good. If the Avs get really bad for a long period of time and the Nuggets get good (remember this is hypothetical) guess what the Nuggets will be popular and the Avs will suffer in popularity. That's just the way it is. The really telling aspect is that when both teams do well (like recently) they both are selling out games and immensely popular.
Sports, at their best and at their soul, are regional games, with regional fans. They have always been about having people come together and unite locals despite any other differences they may have. Why has SEC football become so big? Is it because it's the best quality football out there? Is it because the SEC advertises better than anyone else? No! College football is so big in the South because in the poorest region of the country (the Southern states) football programs allow people to show off their sense of regional pride. It unites people regionally, and helps people show of a sense of civic, state, regional or nationalistic pride.
Now in this day and age of 80+ cable channels, locally-owned channels (like Altitude) and the massive internet, there is plenty of access to all sports (except the Bundesliga in English. Damn it's hard to find any info on it). These sports that were once regional are becoming more and more international (look at Luis, the Portuguese Avalanche fan, who I think has a Portuguese Avalanche blog, but couldn't find it right away or this Polish Avs blog, which I can't understand at all other than Joe Sakic is awsome!). Yes there is a competition out there since the money and time of fans is limited, but that competition isn't nearly as big as some people make it out to be. If college football and the NFL can find a way to exist and not compete, than I think it's safe to say that inter-sports competition is not as likely.
College football and NFL seem to be the most likely to compete. They are the same sport, played in the same season. They overlap Hockey and Basketball slightly, and baseball a little but really they compete with each other. Yet they still find a way to peacefully coexist. Yes the demand for Football is higher in this country than hockey, soccer and basketball, but the point is that sports don't succeed by driving down the demand for other sports, sports succeed by increasing demand for their own sport.
Most sports have very little overlap. NHL and NBA overlap with each other mainly. MLS and MLB overlap. The NFL overlaps with all of them significantly, yet is the most successful league. Why? because they never went out to supplant baseball. Their business strategy from the very beginning until now has been "We want to make our sport as entertaining as possible. If we do that demand will increase and people will watch our games and buy our products." The NFL never acted, or felt, like it was a competitor of any league. Hell they rented out their stadiums to MLS franchises recently. While the NBA, Soccer, NHL, and to a certain extent MLB are out fighting over current fans the NFL went out and built new fans.
As both an MLS fan and an NHL fan you have put me in an awkward dilemma. Instead of inviting hockey fans to be a part of the MLS experience, he has tried to alienate them from his game. How is this good for either league? A message to Alexei Lalas: MLS has had it right, they have been building their fan base from the bottom up. Instead of trying to "pick them off one-by-one" why don't you say "We have a great game here, and we invite hockey fans to come have a good time during their offseason."
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